`Oh, ever since I was big enough to know loveliness from deformity.'
`'Tis to be hoped your sense of the difference you speak of doesn't stop at faces, but extends to morals as well.'
`I won't speak of morals or religion - my own or anybody else's. Though perhaps I should have been a very good Christian if you pretty women hadn't made me an idolater.'
Bathsheba moved on to hide the irrepressible dimplings of merriment. Troy followed, whirling his crop.
`But - Miss Everdene - you do forgive me?'
`You say such things.'
`I said you were beautiful, and I'll say so still, by - so you are! The most beautiful ever I saw, or may I fall dead this instant! Why, upon my--'
`Don't - don't! I won't listen to you - you are so profane!' she said, in a restless state between distress at hearing him and a penchant to hear more.
`I again say you are a most fascinating woman. There's nothing remarkable in my saying so, is there? I'm sure the fact is evident enough. Miss Everdene, my opinion may be too forcibly let out to please you, and, for the matter of that, too insignificant to convince you, but surely it is honest, and why can't it be excused?'
`Because it - it isn't a correct one,' she femininely murmured.
`O, fie - fie! Am I any worse for breaking the third of that Terrible Ten than you for breaking the ninth?'
`Well, it doesn't seem quite true to me that I am fascinating,' she replied evasively.
Not so to you: then I say with all respect that, if so, it is owing to your modesty, Miss Everdene. But surely you must have been told by everybody of what everybody notices? And you should take their words for it.'
`They don't say so exactly.'
`O yes, they must!'
`Well, I mean to my face, as you do,' she went on, allowing herself to be further lad into a conversation that intention had rigorously forbidden.
`But you know they think so?'
`No - that is - I certainly have heard Liddy say they do, but--' She paused.
Capitulation - that was the purport of the simple reply, guarded as it was - capitulation, unknown to herself. Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a more perfect meaning. The careless sergeant smiled within himself, and probably too the devil smiled from a loophole in Tophet, for the moment was the turning-point of a career. Her tone and mien signified beyond mistake that the seed which was to lift the foundation had taken root in the chink: the remainder was a mere question of time and natural changes.
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